Getting an accountant should be one of the first major items you cross off your list. Personally, I had experience working with accountants so I knew what I was looking for. If I had to describe it the best I can, my ideal personality for an accountant is someone who is going to aggressively try to reduce my tax obligations but not touch any legal or ethical lines. I ended up going with a friend of a friend, not only has he helped me tremendously with my accounting but he has actually thrown business my way.
I’ve heard some nightmares about accountants and I’ve dealt with some that are really bad on behalf of clients. The biggest problems I’ve come across can be categorized into three categories; senior accountants pawning you off on freshly minted accountants behind the scenes, accountants near retirement or that have had a very successful practice for many years & made a lot of money, accountants who are friends or know you through someone else.
Pawning you off – I’ve seen this happen a lot with bigger firms, they claim it’s to reduce costs to you but a lot of the time it’s because they really don’t care. They want to deal with bigger clients that result in bigger paydays, nothing wrong with it but just doesn’t necessarily help you much. I’ve also seen this at smaller firms once they get a good number of regular clients.
Accountants near retirement or very successful – This one I’ve actually dealt with frequently and it absolutely infuriates me. I’ve actually fired an accountant over this and plan to do so with a few others that my clients have. If you go with an accountant nearing retirement, you run the chance of getting someone who is just trying to milk the last few dollars before calling it quits. Also accountants that have built very successful firms can be hazardous, they “check-out” and pretty much start working maybe 2-3 days per week. The person you initially signed up to handle your accounting doesn’t anymore, he delegates it to someone else who may not be what you really want.
Friends of friends – This one is tough on both sides, if it doesn’t work out you might ruin a friendship in the process plus you got screwed on your accounting. A lot of times people expect that they are getting a great accountant because their friend recommended them. You can run into situations where these accountants take advantage because they didn’t have to put in any work to win your business.
Best advice I can give is do your homework. By that I mean, treat it like an interview meet with a couple different accountants. Ask for references and do you best to ask them tough questions. If they pass the sniff test, try them out…if after the first year you don’t like what you are getting change accountants. There’s nothing that says you are stuck for life.
Not only has he helped me tremendously with my accounting but he has actually thrown business my way